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Vancouver Outdoors

These Boots Are Made for Walkin’
Vancouver Outdoors
Surrounded by the sea, rain forest, and mountains, Vancouver is among the most active, healthy cities in Canada. Thanks to the mild climate, adventurers can run, hike, cycle, paddle, and dive year-round, or enjoy world-class skiing in the winter.
By Amanda Castleman, AFAR Local Expert
Talaysay Tours
  • 1 / 10
    These Boots Are Made for Walkin’
    These Boots Are Made for Walkin’
    Vancouver’s crowning glory is Stanley Park, a 400-acre peninsula on downtown’s northwestern edge. Stroll it solo or with a First Nations guide from Talaysay Tours, who will explain the area’s indigenous history and the totem poles in the Brockton Point meadow. Other great walking excursions include culinary adventures with Vancouver Foodie Tours, beer-based expeditions in Brewery Creek and Yeast Van, and rollicking romps through Gastown’s checkered past with Forbidden Vancouver. For art lovers, there’s the Vancouver Mural Festival, with its outdoor masterpieces in the Strathcona, Eastside, and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods. Download a map or join an expert to make sure you see every last work.
    Talaysay Tours
  • 2 / 10
    Spin City
    Spin City
    A mellow climate and 173 miles of cycle lanes make Vancouver one of the continent’s most bike-friendly cities. The catch? This gorgeous metropolis has some leg-burning hills in the mix. Skirt them by cruising around Stanley Park, then continue along the greenway—hailed as the world’s longest, uninterrupted waterfront path—for a 17-mile workout. Cycle City Tours offers rentals and guides and also leads craft-beer jaunts that swing by the excellent Belgard Kitchen in the Settlement Building. For wine lovers, there are electric-bike winery expeditions in the Okanagan Valley, 240 miles east of Vancouver.
    Cycle City Tours
  • 3 / 10
    Going to Extremes
    Going to Extremes
    Vancouver offers plenty of adrenaline-pumping activities for thrill seekers. Paraglide within city limits at Grouse Mountain, or tackle the country’s longest tandem zip line at Superfly Basecamp in Whistler. Nearby, bungee jumpers can also catch some air over the glacial-fed Cheakamus River. On your way back to the city, stop at Squamish Spit, where gusts of thermal wind launch kiteboarders high above Howe Sound (sightings are best from May to September).
    Grouse Mountain Resorts
  • 4 / 10
    Paddle Your Own Canoe
    Paddle Your Own Canoe
    British Columbia’s 16,901 miles of coastline make for epic places to paddle in—and around—the seaport of Vancouver. If you’re keen for a water adventure, head to Ecomarine Paddlesport Centres, on Granville Island or Jericho Beach, where you can rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards or even take a lesson. Then, join Talaysay Tours to kayak or sail the Salish Sea along with a First Nations guide. “We paddle on light rainy days and encourage visitors to love our rain-forest coast, just as the locals do,” the company stresses. Make sure to wear layers and pack a Gore-Tex shell.
    Ecomarine Paddlesport Centres
  • 5 / 10
    Make a Splash in the City
    Make a Splash in the City
    Let young kids loose on the big slide, pipes, sprayers, and fire hydrants at North America’s largest free water park, open May through September on Granville Island. Meanwhile, adults can visit Wreck Beach, the continent’s largest nude beach located just below the University of British Columbia. If you’re seeking fun for the entire family, take one of Sea Vancouver’s inflatable boat tours, which race up to 34 miles per hour across Burrard Inlet and often include orca sightings. Eager to see humpbacks? Vancouver Whale Watch has a 95 percent success rate on its excursions, which run from April through October.
    Tourism Richmond
  • 6 / 10
    The Life Aquatic
    The Life Aquatic
    Catch some air in a classic Pacific Northwest floatplane. Vancouver’s major carrier, Harbour Air, docks right downtown by the Convention Centre, with flight-seeing tours starting at $89. It also flies to Salt Spring Island, a free-spirited sanctuary of art and artisanal food where you can hike, kayak, and beachcomb, then refuel at Hastings House with dishes like local lamb with nugget potatoes and honey-mustard jus. 



    Harbour Air
  • 7 / 10
    Happy Trails
    Happy Trails
    Evergreens, waterfalls, lakes, and alpine views await hikers in Vancouver. Besides the popular seawall, there are several trails traversing Stanley Park, including the mile-long trek to the lush Beaver Lake wetland. Also worth visiting is Wreck Beach, where more than 34 miles of forest and shoreline paths lace Pacific Spirit Regional Park. For something strenuous, head north of Vancouver to Squamish and climb Stawamus Chief, one of the world’s largest granite monoliths. Keep an eye out for peregrine falcons, but give them a wide berth during nesting season (mid-March through July). Farther north still is the limitless beauty of Whistler, particularly the Garibaldi Lake area with its glaciers, wildflower meadows, and lava-sculpted terrain. 


    Manuel Sulzer/age fotostock
  • 8 / 10
    With Great Powder Comes Great Responsibility
    With Great Powder Comes Great Responsibility
    British Columbia hosted the 2010 Winter Olympic Games—the first to be held by the sea. In the following years, the province beautifully repurposed its venues, allowing visitors to luge, bobsled, and ski on the same Whistler Blackcomb slopes as their heroes. Afterward, soak away any soreness at the Scandinave Spa, where outdoor hydrotherapy pools offer splendid mountain vistas. No time to head two hours north of Vancouver? Hit Grouse Mountain, a 4,039-foot peak within city limits. In addition to 33 downhill runs, the mountain has attractions like ax throwing and a world-class restaurant, The Observatory. You could also range just a little farther afield to Cypress Mountain, which boasts the best powder, most terrain, and longest vertical drop in the North Shore Range. It has a tubing area, as well, along with extensive trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.


    Mike Crane/Tourism Whistler
  • 9 / 10
    Natural Gifts
    Natural Gifts
    British Columbia shelters almost 25 percent of the world’s temperate rain forests, which teem with ferns, mosses, and blueberries. Here, you’ll also find hardy conifers, from red cedars and Sitka spruces to tall, thin Douglas firs that can reach 250 feet and live more than 1,200 years. Get a bird’s-eye view of the area during a canopy tour at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Then come down to earth and revel in spectacularly designed landscapes at Richmond’s International Buddhist Temple or Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
    Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
  • 10 / 10
    Hot Wheels, Cool Views
    Hot Wheels, Cool Views
    Car connoisseurs, start your engines. Scenic Rush invites guests to get behind the wheel of four dream vehicles, including a Ferrari F430 Spider and a Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4. Starting in West Vancouver, tours wind up the stunning Sea-to-Sky Highway to either Squamish or Whistler. The Highway 99 route starts along the shore of a fjord, then climbs through old-growth rain forest into the crags of the Coast Range. No matter which tour you choose, you’ll get a turn in all four cars—with ample time to stop for selfies. 



    Scenic Rush